Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

Don’t Yelp Unless You Mean It

Posted: December 17, 2012 by SteveOnTheBike in Marketing
Tags: , , ,

A Fairfax, VA woman was recently ordered to pay a fine of $750,000 after a judge ruled she not only left a fictitious review on Yelp, but that it also cost the contractor she hired north of $300,000 in lost business.

In the summer of 2011, Jane Perez hired Christopher Dietz to perform construction on her home. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong! According to Perez’s user reviews on Yelp and Angie’s List, Dietz actually damaged her home rather than repaired it. She also claims he billed her for work that he did not perform at all. Oh yeah, she also accused him of stealing jewelry because he was “the only one with a key”. And somewhere in between all that, she accused him of trespassing. And, (yes, there’s more) to top it all off, they are old high school classmates.

Dietz Development’s Yelp Profile

It’s nice to see that at least one of them graduated.

Classmates aside, the judge’s ruling poses an interesting precedent in the online review world going forward. Will more businesses try to defend themselves against what they feel are false reviews? Do they only have a legitimate defense if they can prove there are a significant amount of lost wages? What is considered admissible evidence for both parties? And what really happened in history class between Perez and Dietz?

Hind sight is always 20-20, but you have to hand it to Dietz for sticking up for himself and seeking damages. Would Dietz have sought retribution had there been no financial loss? Probably not. When it comes down to dollars, especially 300,000 of them, people will usually get serious about protecting it. It seems like the most realistic and easiest way to get rid of a negative review would be to ask the customers who actually like, and would recommend you, to write more positive reviews in order to bury the others.

At the very least a business owner should feel obligated to respond to any unfavorable post in a timely and professional manner. While that customer may have a legitimate argument, it bodes well for a business when it faces the music and appropriate, and publicly, addresses any concerns. If you’re a business, and going to compete in the big-kid world, you can’t be childish when a grumpy customer decides to throw a tantrum. Even a non-response can be viewed as more disingenuous than responding unprofessionally.

It is against rules to pay or offer incentives to customers to write positive reviews online. That certainly makes sense. If a customer is going to write a review it should be because they want to share their experience with your company, for better or worse. But I say business owners should be making their customers aware of their online profiles, even encouraging them to leave a review at their discretion.

As a word of advice, just assume that every single one of your customers intends to leave an online review of your business. Assume they are all Yelp addicts. Assume that right after you leave their house, or they walk out of your office, they plan on going straight to Google to leave a review on your profile. And, if you’ve never thought about it, assume that for one reason or another, their experience with your brand or employees is going to find its way on to either Facebook or Twitter. Probably both. (In fact, just right now on my Facebook timeline I spotted a picture that is going viral right now of a dentist that allowed his patient’s dog to be present in the room during the procedure. If there’s one thing I know about the animal kingdom, it’s don’t mess with dog lovers.)

But DO deal with angry Yelpers. That’s good business.

Google just released the ability to respond to reviews!!!

They also provide these great guidelines on how to respond.

  • Ignore minor complaints and resolve issues privately when possible.
  • Address problems constructively. Don’t use responses to advertise.
  • Do not ask reviewers for anything or offer them anything.
  • Be professional and polite. The world can read your response.



Now if you have ever been on the business side of things than you will sympathize the idea that critics can be so cruel and that they are exaggerating the truth.  And yes, J.D. Powers actually confirms that a customer is more likely to lie about something than a business is. But having said this, the customer will still share some insight into areas of possible concern, even if blown out of proportion.  And while many people might not squawk at a pest in the far corner of the room, nobody likes an ugly bug in their face.  So take step back away from the threatening pest and then focus on your  pest control efforts… Which shouldn’t be directed at the customer holding the bug in your face, direct it at the bug.

Barely noticable cheese ball on carpet...


There will be those that will shout foul play every time.  If they are not your customers than it is probably better to ignore them.  And there may also be competitors that post fake reviews. Yes, it can get ugly.  (You know I think I use to under value that whole 9th commandment thing, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”) Honesty should be your only policy.

Case Study #1

So Jason decided to respond to a “review” that called into question all of his other positive reviews. Yes probably unfair of the reviewer to make such claims, and possibly a competitor, but Jason spoke his mind as most of us might be tempted to do.

By Don – Jun 27, 2010

What is with all these companies writing their own reviews. ALL these REVIEWS came in the span of a month. I don’t get it! Do you guys think people are not really going to catch on to what you are doing? Be smarter guys! You’re making yourselves lose business. It makes you look dishonorable. SHAME ON YOU!‎

Weird? You know what’s really weird?..
By Jason – Jul 9, 2010
Whats really weird is when people make erroneous comments without having any real evidence to back them up. Just because there are several positive reviews does not automatically mean that they are fake. Don did you ever stop to think that maybe this company is taking an active approach to their marketing and actually asking customers to visit this site and post honest experiences and maybe, they even used incentives for their technicians as a way to generate these legitimate reviews as well as create some friendly competition between the employees and build morale? No, I guess you wouldn’t take the time and actually use your brain or even make a phone call or send an email to get some real information before slandering someone’s good name simply because you think you know-it-all. So the next time you want to play big bully “Be smarter” because “it makes YOU look dishonorable. SHAME ON YOU!”‎

Blown out of porportion... yes the details get a little fuzzy here. BTW... those red arrows are the same size. #perspective

And it get’s worse… “Billy” yes most likely aka for Don, decides to join the conversation….

Unusually suspicious‎‎
By Billy – Jul 17, 2010
I might have to side with Don on this one. I have never gone with progressive and actually looking for a reputable pest control service in Charlotte. But after coming to this page and reading Don’s post right before Jason’s review, it looks mightily unusual that someone like Jason feels that strongly about a pest control company. Jason goes on as much to personally insult Don. Again, just looks weird to see someone that offended over a pest control review… Another unusual thing is that Don is right, all the reviews are within a span of a month or two. And all the posters don’t review anything else but this company. Kinda sneaky in my opinoin… but that’s just my opinion 🙂 No offense!‎
Yes I can totally sympathize with John here.  The guy that gave you a bad review wasn’t a customer, at best, was just an onlooker and has to blurt out a opinion that you claim is false. Horribly wrong of him to do so without really knowing the facts.
If you can get good reviews in a legitimate way, i.e. your customers, than do it. If you are the type of company that offers great service than help your customers talk.  BUT… John, if you were a Bulwark Exterminating manager or employee than I would ask you to remove your comment.  Intelligent people will make a judgment call either way.  Let them read the reviews for themselves.  We are all adults here right?… Well we should all be adults.

Case Study #2

A pest control company in Houston gets a disbeliever…

Look at the dates on these reviews!‎‎
By adam – Dec 12, 2009

It seems that they have a bunch of good reviews all on the same date. That is odd? Also, all the bad reviews are are marked with about the same number of people putting that the review was not helpful. LOOKS LIKE A SCAM TO ME.‎

The other side of the story!‎‎
By Tiffani – Feb 15, 2010

This is Raleigh Jenkins and I am the owner of ABC Pest Pool and Lawn Services. I have reviewed the latest google comments and I would like to respond to those who question the other reviews regarding any “fake” comments and to clarify the issue. We have recently had an incentive program for our technicians to ask our customers to go online to our ABC website to share their experience with us. Too often it is only those who have a complaint that respond to a survey and it is sometimes difficult for many of us to request a compliment! We have also included our survey request with the paperwork that is left at our customers homes and business. With this recent activity, we have increased the number of surveys that are completed and we are proud to say that many of our customers are taking the time to express their positive experience with ABC. In an effort to share “the other side of the story”, we have copied our recent surveys from our website and copied them on the google site. I assure you they are all legitimate comments from very real customers. If you have any doubts, I would be happy to speak to you personally; and with the customers permission, provide the opportunity for you to contact them as well. If anyone ever has a problem or question in regard to their service from ABC, please know that I, and all of the staff, want to be able to have the opportunity to resolve your concerns. If necessary, please feel free to contact me directly at 281-653-5***.

I know I should probably stop here and point out some clear violations in Google’s Policies… But let’s just take note that this owners response gets even more hecklers….

Beware!!! scam‎‎
By Jon – May 11, 2010
There service is poor. and all the 5 star reviews are fraud, If you run back to page 3 or 4 you see that they are writing there own reviews, Tiffany writes one for the owner and also as customers. Funny how all the new reviews are by guest or anonymous and on the same days, and when they get a negative review they flood the pages with new reviews to wash the bad review 3 or 4 pages back. BEWARE!!‎

So here is the ugly side of reviews and adding responses… Yes. I am still shocked that Google has not penalized a company the blatantly stated they were adding reviews…. The world is so unjust.  And sorry, I am not here to just make fun of my competitors… It is simply the quickest way for me to reference the world from my perspective. If you have other reviews and responses that you’d prefer I added here than I am open for suggestions…. but since I am probably the mad scientist in the corner rambling to myself… and while we are on the subject…


Trying to invent a system that will cheat the reviews will not work.  I am not saying this because I cheated, I am saying this because I believe my company did it according to the rules too well and we still got axed. And besides… being a cheat and lying? …, adding fake reviews that could or could not bring in more sales ..??

…. What is the use if your service is not going to retain those sales?

And if you are getting legitimate reviews and ________ site does remove them than let me know, not that I can really help, but I would still like to hear your story. Review websites are just as much under the scrutiny of their users/customers as you and I are.